- Curt Leonard
The Greatness of God on Display - Part 2
Yesterday we looked at 40:1-11. God gave the people comfort by showing them He is their rescue and He will return and set things right in this world. He called upon them to “behold” their God. In this next section (40:12-26) God will do just that—showcasing His character in vivid and unforgettable ways. After all, if God is our rescue and help, then we must see Him clearly. And as we will see, besides strengthening our faith, this will provide another benefit in battling our ways to trust in other things besides God.
Read Isaiah 40:12-26.
As you read, perhaps you noticed the sheer amount of questions in this section (there are 14 individual questions in 9 verses). Why does God spend so much time asking questions here instead of declaring things to us? In other words, what do questions demand of us?
(12) In these verses we are meant to see the vast nature of God. He is simply bigger than the large natural world we encounter. He can measure the waters in the hollow of one hand (12), measure the massive expanse of space with its billions of galaxies with the span of one of His hands (12), capture all of the earth’s dust in a unit of measure (12) and take all of the massive, unmovable mountains and hills of our globe and measure them as if on a scale! According to current estimates the diameter of the observable universes is 93 billion light-years. Since 1 light year is roughly 6 trillion miles, this would mean that, according to my rather crude calculations, the observable universe has a diameter of 558,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 miles! That is over 500 sextillion (Yes, that is the next set of numbers after quadrillion and quintillion.)! God can span that in His hand! We know that God is still bigger than this and this image is but a picture meant to convey the immensity of our God. All of the vast, immense, seemingly limitless ‘bigness’ of our natural world, is small to our huge God.
Why is it helpful to see that our God is ‘bigger’ than our ‘big’ world?
(13-14) But it not just the limitless nature of God compared to the natural world we are to see. We are also to see that He is limitless in knowledge as well. His “Spirit” is better translated as “spirit” and does NOT point to the 3rd person of the Trinity (The Holy Spirit). Rather, it is pointing to the Lord’s spirit or the total nature of His internal character involving the aspects like emotions, will and thinking. (See Citation 1)
God’s knowledge is so limitless that no one has to counsel Him in order to make up any lack of knowledge (13). And they certainly then do not need to give Him any moral advice as to what is right (14).
How does God’s immense and complete knowledge help you personally with daily of life?
How does seeing that God already knows the “paths of justice” help us when we think about the wrongs we encounter in daily life?
Now the human and political world comes into view, not just the natural world. And when placed next to God these are also found to be small. The nations are like a single drop of water and they are also like dust to God, that makes no apparent difference to the scales (15). The “fuel” of Lebanon is a way of talking about the renowned forests that the region of Lebanon possessed. These coveted cedar trees were used to build Solomon’s grand temple (1 Kings 5:6). If people were to burn all of the forests of Lebanon and then dedicate all of its animals in sacrifice to God, it would still not be worthy of the greatness of God. All the nations of our world are insignificant to God. Their strength is “less than nothing” (17).
How would seeing all the nations as insignificant to God help ancient Jews who may be in exile?
How does seeing our nation’s glory and power— as well as all the other nations— as less than nothing, help us?
Why does God ask the question in verse 18 after what He stated in verses 12- 17?
If God is this vast and amazing, then to what can we even dare compare Him? In fact, how can we ever try to make anything compare to God? The answer is that we can’t. To compare God with anything is a serious error, for He stands outside and above our natural world. He is an outstandingly unique and great God! This is precisely why He asks them the question. He is forcing them to realize that He alone is God and is without any equal or rival in the universe. There is only one true God. What about an “idol” (18)? After all, Judah and the other nations sought to represent God in the form of an image or statue. Perhaps these images might be a good comparison of God? God denounces this as terribly wrong. He does so by ridiculing these manufactured deities (19-20). They should see that these idols cannot be the true God since they are made from wood and have to be propped up lest they fall over (20)!
What does God hope to accomplish by ridiculing these idols of wood?
God is on the offensive again with questions (21) meant to drive us to consider and conclude that He is above creation, completely unique, and the truly great God. He stands in power over creation (22, 26) and over world events (23-24). Ancient people would often live in fear of both the rulers over them and the stars in the heavens (24) since they viewed them as deities or powers in control over events of history. But we see that God is in charge of both of these. These rulers are fleeting and they are under His sovereign control (23- 24). The stars also, whom the nations were tempted to worship (some still look at them as having power to predict things today!), are also under God’s command (24). In other words, God is showing that He alone is in total charge over the world—from creation to government. Nothing stands outside of His power and sovereignty.
How does seeing God in complete control of our world help us with the fears we are facing during this pandemic?
Throughout this section God has asked questions. The main questions in this text are found in verses 18 and 25. He is asking these questions because He invited ancient Israel to repent by giving up their love of false gods, and embrace Him alone as their God and only hope. He is inviting us to respond today in the same way. He wants us to reply with this statement, “There is no one like you, O God!” He calls upon us to answer like this so we will put down our false hopes and false securities—our idols—and look to Him alone as our God!
Main Point: God alone is great and He alone is God. Stop looking anywhere else for your hope and security! Because He alone is the great God, then we must reject the false gods that we seek to find security and comfort in. God is greater than all of the things that we hunger and search for. Nothing else satisfies us like our great God! Since He alone has all power, wisdom, and control for life, then He alone should be sought. Do you not see that if you seek after other things beyond God that you end up robbing yourself of true security and comfort?
Are there things in your life that are the equivalent of idols or false gods that you devote yourself to (pleasure, sex, money, career, family, fame, etc.)?
In specific ways, how is God better than these particular “gods” that you worship?
Meditate on how God is better and more satisfying than these false gods in our lives. Repent of idols in your life. Thank God that He is better than false gods.
1 - John Oswalt, The Book of Isaiah: Chapters 40-66 (NICOT), p. 59.